SAINTS boss Kristian Woolf was still soaking up the afterglow of Friday night’s Grand Final win when the Star’s Mike Critchley caught up with him this week.

MC: Such a tight, compelling game - but where did Saints have that critical edge?

KW: We controlled the game really well for long periods.

When you talk about who is controlling possession and field position a lot of that comes from how hard you want to work in defence to limit the opposition’s metres.

I thought for long periods in that game we controlled it really well.

St Helens Star:

We were on top for long periods, but Wigan had their moments and they came later in the game.

The big difference at the end was blokes taking opportunities, which you need to do in Grand Finals because there are never going to be many of them when it is two quality teams.

St Helens Star:

MC: And a special effort there at the end in the most remarkable of finishes?

KW: Jack Welsby wanting to compete to the death is what won us the game.

There are a lot of moments in that game that made up the result at the end.

There were a lot of big moments that worked for us and couple that did not quite go for us.

The last play was the real deciding moment and in the end it showed how much our blokes wanted to compete and how willing they were to play on every play.

St Helens Star:

MC: Where did Jonny Lomax find the energy at end, and make those legs pump to clear the line and effectively create the opportunity for the kick?

KW: It is who they are as a team – and what they have trained to do as a team and when you start your pre-season work it is so you can find the energy in those sorts of moments, but you also have to have the mental awareness and the desire to want to do it.

Those blokes found that at the right time.

MC: It took a lot to break that defence down – and Saints had a lot of ball on the Wigan line, how important was the patience or did you want them to try something else?

St Helens Star:

KW: If you go any way through the history of Super League or the NRL you would find it hard to get a better game than that.

It was a really high quality game of footy and that was before we got to the ending.

If I was being really, really picky – because I thought we played really well - if there is one thing we were not quite as good at, I don’t think our attack flowed quite as well, particularly compared to the week before.

Again there are different reasons for that.

St Helens Star:

What I did like was that we stayed patient and did not try to find something that was not there.

When a team is defending really well you can fall into the trap of trying to search for an opportunity.

And we knew that there were only going to be a couple of opportunities for the game.

What the blokes were good enough to do was take that opportunity when it came. And it came really late.

St Helens Star:

We did have a disallowed one through Zeb Taia in the second half – and if you talk about inches I thought that had enough about it to be awarded as a try. But if you were from Wigan you would probably say the opposite as well You just have to take your opportunities and there were not many of them.

MC: With Big Al was there ever any doubt of him playing?

KW: There was a little bit of doubt and he deserves credit for playing with that knee because it could have obviously backfired. He did that really well and was brave enough to go out there even if he was not as comfortable moving as he can at his best. He still led from the front.

It was not touch and go at the start of the week, although there was some doubt he convinced us all that he could get through it and that is why we backed him to get through it.

St Helens Star:

He showed so much confidence himself that we were willing to put him out there.

If I was being really, really picky – because I thought we played really well - if there is one thing we were not quite as good at, I don’t think our attack flowed quite as well, particularly compared to the week before.

MC: In previous years, even going back to last year’s Wembley, Saints had a history of losing big semis and finals. Is there a bit more steel in this team now after two Grand Final wins?

KW: I think you can only go on the evidence shown there and say yes. I know a bit of the history from 2016/17 and 18 but find that hard to comment on because I was not watching with my own eyes.

Obviously they did really well in 2019 What the evidence at the weekend and from the semi-final shows they certainly have the resilience and the toughness to win those types of games.

St Helens Star:

There was never at any point a thought that we might not come up with the effort and not have the resilience to win that Grand Final.

They were pouring effort into every minute of that game.

MC: One of the loudest cheers was at the end, when the 17 were joined by the rest of the squad, it showed a mutual respect for the whole contribution to the year?

KW: Yes, it was good, wasn’t it?

And that is exactly right.

We have spoken all along since we came back from the Covid lockdown that it has been very much a squad effort.

It has been so for a number of reasons, not only because we have had to rotate the squad and all those blokes have come in and played games when we have had niggles.

St Helens Star:

We have had our injury dramas, as many as any other team, and the only time this year we have put the same team on the field twice in a row was the semi-final and the final.

That shows we have had a lot of contribution from those squad members.

But the other thing those guys have done really well is going nearly a whole year with so little rugby – with some of them playing just one game since March.

They have turned up every week and performed in opposed sessions against us in training.

They have remained motivated in training at an elite level and all those things add up to help the whole mood of the squad and the preparation of the team that plays every week.

St Helens Star:

The emotion that was heard and seen at the end of the game was an acknowledgement as to what those players have done.